IntroductionThe other day the new GIGABYTE P45-DQ6 arrived and I was instantly intrigued by how cool it looks. The thing is, what also arrived that day was the HD 4850s. With my mind going in over drive, I thought this was the perfect time to check out what's going on in the PCI Express slot department these days.While the P45 does have some improvements over the X48, it's ultimately a replacement for the lower end P35 chipset. The X58 due out later this year will be the true replacement for the X48.While there are a few differences between the two, we only cared about one of them. We wanted to know the performance difference between the X48 and the P45 when running Crossfire. While both boards carry two physical x16 slots, when two cards are installed the electronics behind the slots on the P45 tune back to x8 on both slots. The X48 on the other hand continues to run both slots at x16 independently.Since we were bugging the guys down at IBuyPower Australia all weekend, we thought to ourselves "What's just one more motherboard swap?" - So, setting up our HD 4850s in the P45 and cranking the CPU up to 4GHz, we obtained some interesting results.
Test System Setup and 3DMark06
Test System SetupProcessor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad QX9650 @ 4GHz (400MHz x 10)Cooling: Swiftech Apogee GTX Block (CPU) 3x 120mm Radiator, MCP655-B PumpMotherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 and GIGABYTE P45-DQ6Memory: 2 X 2GB OCZ Reaper X 1066MHz DDR-2 Hard Disk(s): Western Digital Velociraptor 300GB 10,00RPM SATAOperating System: Windows Vista SP1Drivers: Catalyst 8.6 BetaOur focus today is the graphics performance between these two chipsets. So let's see if there is much of a difference with the x8/x8 combination that the P45 uses Vs. the X48 x16/x16 setup.3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage:http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage:http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
Our first test shows very little difference between the two configurations.
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
We again see very little difference between the two chipsets, but when we move to X and start working the graphics cards a bit more, the P45 takes about a 10% drop in performance.
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.
As we crank up the intensity, we again see the performance difference between the two boards becoming quite noticeable in the minimum department.
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
CINEBENCH manages to see the Crossfire setup once again take a bit of a hit on the P45.
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
We again see as the strain on the system becomes more intensive, the performance of the HD 4850s begins to dip on the P45 setup.
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.
An intensive game like Crysis sees the cards get it at all resolutions, and quite significantly at that. The X48 is really able to stand out when compared to the P45.
Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.
We again see quite a significant drop in the performance levels at the higher resolution between the two boards.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AFOur high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.3DMark06
Back to 3DMark06; turning AA and AF on, we see no difference between the two boards.World In Conflict
With the settings cranked right up, we again see massive drops in performance. If you tested these cards on the P45, your opinion on them would be severely different.
Final ThoughtsThis is really a very interesting article and is something people need to be taking note of. The first thing you need to be checking is if you're reading a review where Crossfire is being tested. Make sure that the board there using is a x16 / x16 motherboard. The results really do speak for themselves and it's clear that there is a performance difference between a x16 / x16 configuration which the X48 offers, and the x8/x8 one on the P45.If you're really thinking about going down the Crossfire path, we would be highly recommending that you spend the extra money to go to an X38 or X48 based motherboard over the P45. Of course, if you're not then it doesn't really matter. With one card the P45 runs at x16, which is exactly what you want.The thing is, the X48-DQ6 is only about 10% more expensive, so you could easily say that you should just spend the extra money and get that. You may in future go Crossfire without knowing it yet, but admittedly the P45-DQ6 does have some very cool features such as the new ICH10R controller, loads of SATA ports and just some really funky new add-ons like the power buttons on board. Of course, we will cover all these in more detail in our full motherboard review at a later date.Before you rush out and buy that P45 board thinking that x8 / x8 will be just fine, sit back and have a think if you're really aiming to go down the Crossfire path in the near future.
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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.
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